DMC set to cut jobs, overhaul operations

Christine Ferretti

Detroit — Hundreds of Detroit Medical Center employees could soon be losing their jobs as the private health system embarks on a restructuring plan to retool its operations.

In a Monday memorandum to its 11,000 workers, the medical center’s CEO Dr. Anthony Tedeschi unveiled a “transformation plan” for DMC that calls for a new organizational structure to better serve its patients and boost investment. Tadeschi, in his memo, said the workforce reductions are expected “over the next month.”

“We will and we must continue to invest strategically in our business to enhance our medical care services, respond to the needs and preferences of the community, strengthen our competitive position and grow our patient and revenue base,” Tedeschi said in the memo. “As we do that, however, we must flatten our organization to increase accountability and improve operations.”

Up to 300 jobs could be lost under the DMC overhaul, but that’s “certainly not a number that’s locked in,” DMC spokesman John Truscott told The News Monday.

“We really don’t know what the exact number would be, nor is there a target at this point,” said Truscott, noting the organization is “very heavy” in its upper management and DMC is “trying to smooth that.”

DMC is owned by the for-profit Tenet Healthcare of Dallas, an 80-hospital chain that bought the eight-hospital operation in 2013 from Vanguard Health Systems, a for-profit Nashville, Tennessee firm.

The anticipated staff cuts are the latest in several rounds of reductions for the DMC in recent years. Tedeschi said he last year cut 14 management positions in the DMC’s market leadership team after a 1 percent reduction in 2016 of its workforce, with certain exemptions.

A similar staff reduction plan was followed in 2015. At that time, the DMC cited a need to be more efficient and noted layoffs were not a result of its performance.

They came as the DMC’s owners fulfilled a promise to spent $850 million in upgrades to existing facilities and new construction for the chain’s hospitals after the nonprofit DMC was sold to Vanguard in 2010.

“These decisions are extremely difficult and we do not take them lightly, but they are necessary to align DMC with the health care landscape today and to ensure we can invest in opportunities for DMC’s future,” Tedeschi wrote, adding some staff will get new assignments and the DMC will also need to bring on new talent.

“Realistically, we won’t be able to place every displaced associate in a new job within the company, but we will make every effort to place as many as possible.”

Despite the planned job losses, Truscott stressed that the DMC is still hiring for other jobs, including doctors and, chiefly, nurses. Tedeschi is focused on increasing patient satisfaction scores, he said.

“They have hundreds and hundreds of nursing positions right now that they are trying to fill,” Truscott said. “There is a premium put on the front-line care that the patients see.”

Monday marks the beginning of the process, which Truscott said will include a hospital-by-hospital review and an evaluation of the DMC’s executive offices.

Tedeschi, in his letter to staff, also identified eight key restructuring areas for the health system. Among them are patient safety and satisfaction, quality, employee retention and management support, simplification of its operations and growing outpatient service offerings and community partnerships.

A year ago, DMC was forced by the state and federal governments to overhaul its instrument-cleaning operations or risk losing its certification after The Detroit News reported the chain’s surgeons and staffers have complained for at least 11 years about improperly cleaned, broken and missing surgical instruments.

The federal government reopened its probe in February 2017 after a surprise inspection following more reports of filthy surgical equipment. The DMC maintained that no patients were harmed. Officials in May 2017 said an overhaul of sterilization practices fixed the surgical instrument issues.

The DMC sliced its workforce by 1 percent in 2016 but exempted staff from its Central Sterile Processing facility in the basement of Detroit Receiving Hospital that cleans and sterilizes surgical instruments used at Receiving, Detroit Children’s Hospital, Harper University Hospital, Hutzel Women’s Hospital and Heart Hospital.